In follow up to my first Ayahuasca experience in December 2022, here is a somewhat shorter write-up for February 2024. I provide more detailed information about some references in the first experience.
Differences in Ceremony
My second experience occurred near Pisac Peru, which is in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco. I chose Etnikas retreat center based on a referral. Etnikas takes a more formal approach than Florestal in Costa Rica, including :
- A medical checkup on arrival (blood pressure, pulse, height, weight, short and simple EKG) with shorter checkups right after each ceremony. The doctor also monitored the ceremony if anyone needed help)
- A discussion with a psychologist who was also our primary point of contact throughout the experience and during the ceremonies
- An hour-long video from the retreat center founder discussing spirituality and ayahuasca. He definitely had extensive knowledge of Buddhism as many references were the same as in Vipassana, which I had experienced only 6 weeks before
- A meditation and some light yoga right before the ayahuasca ceremonies for mental preparations
- Several short Peruvian ceremonies before the first Ayahuasca ceremony, along with a closing ceremony before returning to Cusco
A male shaman from the Andes mountains led the shorter ceremonies while the Ayahuasca ceremonies were led by two female shamans from the Peruvian jungle.
On night one there were only 3 of us (compared to the over 20 in Costa Rica), Deborah from Berlin and Julian from Sacramento. We rode together in the van from Cusco and had immediate positive energy and a strong bond together. This bond remained throughout our time, though faced adversity for me during ceremony 2.
On night two there were 2 additions, John and Heather from Jacksonville, who were on their last night of a 3 ceremony experience (there were two others but they were not feeling well enough for their 3rd night). Their energy was totally different and my energy never connected with theirs.
The temple was an indoor facility due to the high altitude and often cold weather at over 10,000 feet.
Peruvian ceremony style differs significantly from the Brazilian style used in Costa Rica. The Peruvian style is largely silent only from 2 large candles. The female shamans performed chanting (more on that later) through much of the ceremony. As a result, the ceremony is more internally focused where the Brazilian has strong external energy from the music.
A quick reminder of the stages of the Ayahuasca experience. A more detailed description is available in the previous post.
- Stepped Ascent
- Event Horizon
- Slow Descent
- Final Landing
Those phases were far more nebulous during this experience compared to Costa Rica.
February 2, 2024
Start time: 7PM
Before we started the ceremony, we did some light exercises and meditation. Our guide also read a letter from Albert Einstein regarding that a big miss in his theory of relativity was love. I found this letter fascinating, especially since the theory of relativity introduced the concept of spacetime and that time is non-linear. That is especially true in an Ayahuasca experience, as the speed of time varies throughout the experience. I refer to it as Ayahuasca Time. All references to time below are guesses.
After the exercises and meditation, we claimed our space, as small mattress with a couple pillows and blankets. The shamans did some preparations, including lighting a small cleansing fire and the two candles. We received our cups and drank together. For tonight, I chose a full cup (a shot glass).
Within 10 minutes, I was activated. After 20 minutes I am fully into the Event Horizon. Where the ascent in Costa Rica was stepped, tonight was linear – I had boarded the rocket ship and travel straight into the astral. Compared to Costa Rica, the colors were more subtle and dimmer, but there were far more extensive with three-dimensional layers. My face and hands tingled with intense vibration sensations. It was overwhelming. I also had a loud tone in my ears. About 10 minutes later, I had a violent purge. It was one of those purges that you expect your face to split open. After the purge, I stayed in the event horizon for another 10sh minutes though it was less intense.
A pretty rapid descent began and a sense of calm fell on me. After a period, images reappeared. These images were not the light show I experienced previously. While I admit I don’t remember most, Mother Ayahuasca delivered her message through a series of more photographic style images. The first memorable image was the word Humble carved into… something (my best description!!), the primary message from Mother Ayahuasca in Costa Rica. Mother Ayahuasca gave me the sensation of accomplishment but not success, expressing her pleasure with my progress despite Humble being a lifelong endeavor. As a result of my progress I was given my next lesson. A series of blurry photos flashed in front of my eyes. Though they were blurry, I knew their meaning – there was a series at work where I took Control of a situation when I didn’t need to. There were also a series of images of when I got frustrated in my personal life when I didn’t feel Control. Even though I often say we only can control the way we show up and how we respond, in practice I have a lot of work. A deep sense of contentment washed over me. A year ago, I felt daunted, but tonight’s message filled me with gratitude. I sat there smiling widely for quite some time. The intention of Guidance was fulfilled.
Upon reflection I believe my purge was quick for three reasons. First, my body needed cleansing. Second, I barely ate anything that day (we ate more during the day in Costa Rica). Third, Mother Ayahuasca had the intention to deliver her message before the intensity of the Event Horizon drained my energy.
Shortly after, the psych offered me a second cup. I took a quarter cup, mainly because of my quick purge. My thoughts got stuck on work for quite a while. I am taking a year sabbatical later this year. In preparation, I am mentoring several people where I work. My thoughts focused on how I can continue to mentor them better for I disappear.
I stayed in a calm state for quite some time. I didn’t feel the second cup at all – it had gone dormant.
At some point during the night, one of the shaman started chanting. Her chants were haunting, powerful, chaotic, mesmerizing, and beautiful with powerful energy. She started from her seat but eventually started chanting in front of Julian, then Deborah, then me. When she started chanting in front of me, Ayahuasca was re-activated and I immediately re-entered the event horizon. My memories are vague, but I know I slipped into various stages of consciousness as she chanted.
After she completed her chants, I started my descent. Unlike Costa Rica, where the descent was clear, this time it felt like I was partially in the event horizon and partially in the descent. Consciousness continued to alter. After some time, I purged for a second time as Mother Ayahuasca had mostly finished with me that night. At some point later on, the psych asked me if I was okay and told me it was time to go to bed. I hadn’t completely landed, but my descent was far along. I got up, met with the doctor, who checked my blood pressure and pulse (my blood pressure was the same as earlier that day and my pulse was elevated to 95).
I will mention that outside the time leading to my first purge, I had no sense of time the entire night. Ayahuasca Time is so difficult to measure – the Theory of Relativity in practice. I know it was about 3AM when I went to bed.
February 3, 2024
Start time: 7PM
After over an hour into tonight’s experience, I would have written 2-3 lines. I had no idea that the night would become so delayed and heavy.
Tonight I only did half of a cup after the intense entry experience the previous night. I knew I could take more later if I wanted.
The assent was slow. And when I reached the Event Horizon, I had no visuals – just body sensations. I often get the sensations of vibrations on my hands and face, but this time it was all over my body. It did not last long and I believed my time in the Event Horizon was complete. Little did I know…
Before my assent, John purged with tremendous violence. As a result, the shamans started their chanting, with one immediately in front of John. Then the other shaman started from her chair. They chanted without coordination – their chants were based on the energy they felt. The combined chants more than doubled the level of energy, chaos, power, beauty, haunting nature, and mesmerizing impact. The second shaman then sat in front of Julian and each shaman sat in front of each person at least once. During my two visits, I sat up and focused deeply on their chants. As I was on the descent, that was relatively easy.
As the shamans worked their way around the room, I had the sense of completion and wanted to go to bed. I also felt I needed to purge and that would certainly end whatever remaining experience. I was thinking during the entire night that this might be my last time doing Ayahuasca. It will be at least 2 years as I know my schedule and Ayahuasca won’t fit.
For some reason, I chose not to purge or leave. Shortly after, the shamans started their dual chaotic chant from the chairs. After a bit I had a visualization of a charcoal grey counter – my guess is this occurred over 2 hours after taking ayahuasca. On it said “Control” and a little piece of paper slid over to me. On it said “Patience – You Passed”. Zoom!!! Into the Event Horizon I go. It was not overwhelming but still strong with the laser light show (again, more subtle colors like the previous night, but much less depth and layers). I stayed in the Event Horizon for an unknown time, passing in and out of various stages of consciousness. Similar to the night before, the descent was partially in the Event Horizon as visuals remained.
After some time, I opened my eyes and looked around. Julian, Deborah, and Heather had left the temple. I couldn’t tell if John was there through the darkness. I was surprised to hear the others chit-chatting in lobby, since I hadn’t even reached halfway down my descent and they had already finished their experience.
Then a dark chasm emerged. I felt so lonely. I felt so abandoned. I felt so betrayed. I assumed they were conspiring against me. I believed Julian and Deborah were going to have sex that night. The issue is not Julian and Deborah having sex (I have no idea of the reality of this and it doesn’t matter as it is my BELIEF that matters in this moment) – that doesn’t bother me. My challenge is that we had beautiful, equally shared energy across the three of us throughout the two days and this intense experience. A sexual connection would change that energy – it would diminished my place in that energy connection and make me feel like a third wheel. I have always felt like an outsider, someone on the fringe, a space alien, never fully understood or accepted. Only three times in my life had a sense of true membership in a group – and those were all short-lived. It seems there is something innate in my personality or energy that is off-putting. I understand this from earlier in my life but I have worked hard these past 8 years – but I remain an outsider and likely an even stranger space alien. Even now, during an Ayahuasca ceremony, I am reminded I don’t belong – ever, anywhere or with anyone. It only took me 2 days to feel deserted.
These feelings took me deeper and deeper into the chasm. I waited for the voices to stop as didn’t want to encounter the others. I wasn’t ready to go to bed, but it’s all I had. Really, I wanted to the ground to open that chasm and absorb me into the ground and disappear forever. I asked the psych help from – ooph only being about halfway down the descent made it difficult to walk. I did my quick med check. It wasn’t even 11pm. Crazy Ayahuasca time!!!
I knew I needed to purge for quite some time, but didn’t want to do it inside. Carefully, I walked outside and found a place – returning Ayahuasca back to Pachamama. I sat there for a while in contemplation and then went to my room (Julian wasn’t there even though he left the temple approx 20-30 minutes before).
I laid down in deep bitterness and contemplated. I won’t go through all the rumination, but here is what I have worked out. Mother Ayahuasca heard me consider this being my last experience – at least for a while if not forever. As a result, she didn’t allow me to wake when the others ended their experience and left the room. That allowed her to give me the series of assignments and messages all at once. I also thought about recent breathwork (https://www.amarsi.love/breathwork) where Loneliness was the key message. I also thought of my recent vapassana experience where a critical principal is being equanimous (we have no good or bad emotions- they are just emotions).
I feel devastated. Renewing humble. Adding control, patience, loneliness, abandonment, and betrayal. It feels like Mother Ayahuasca jumped into my personal sewage truck and sprayed the contents all over my face. Mother Ayahuasca must believe in me or she wouldn’t have shared those messages. I am struggling to believe – and that is an understatement.
Oh yeah – my intention was forgiveness. In the moment, I didn’t have any capacity to forgive Julian or Deborah – even though they did nothing wrong. Add forgiveness to my fucking list, too.
I think I’ll stay in my chasm a while longer – maybe for a long time. I feel so fucked…
During the early morning following that ceremony, I wrote the entire first draft of the second ceremony. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t shake the emotions.
A few days later, I remain in the experience’s chasm. I shared most of this story during a group session where we discussed our ceremonies (I gave a heads up to Julian and Deborah before at breakfast). I didn’t mention the sex part but I lightly implied. I forgave Julian and Deborah mentally during breakfast when we spoke for the first time and shared forgiveness with them during group. We had a good last day and trip back to Cusco, where we shared an Incan version of goodbye. Inca’s don’t say goodbye – they say Tupananchikkama, which means “See you again,” which could be in this life, another life, or in the afterworld.
I am grateful the experience and I might do it again. I am also grateful for the deep connections with Julian and Deborah.
I have a lot of work to do. I don’t know how I am going to achieve it. After I returned to Cusco, I sent several texts to people I love and shared my gratitude towards them. Their responses were warm and loving. I know I am not alone, but fuck if often feels that way.
Written February 6, 2024